More than 1,100 dead in besieged El Geneina, West Darfur

A school that served as a shelter for new displaced in El Geneina was torched, May 27 (Mohamed Khalil / UNHCR)


Activists reported from El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, that the number of civilian casualties since the start of the attacks on the city on April 24 has risen to at least 1,100 deaths. People who are still present in El Geneina are unable to leave because the town is almost entirely besieged since Wednesday. West Darfur doctors compare the situation in the region with the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The number of dead has risen to more than 1,100. More than 2,100 people have been wounded in el Geneina, local activists told Radio Dabanga yesterday.

On Wednesday, large groups of gunmen, supported by paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) renewed their attacks on the already mauled city. The attacks, looting, and burning continued until Friday.

“Most parts of El Geneina are now besieged by these gunmen and the RSF,” one of the sources said, and added that “snipers have been deployed in the city as well, while government forces and police are nowhere to be seen.

Most of the residents of El Geneina and the surrounding camps for the displaced fled their homes.

“What is happening in West Darfur is more than a humanitarian disaster,” the sources each said. “The water supply, electricity and communication services have entirely broken down. No hospital or other health facility is working anymore, while El Geneina has run out of most of the essential medicines and foodstuffs.”

A large number of the wounded needed urgent surgical intervention, which led to the conversion of a number of homes into operating rooms.

The sources further pointed to the widespread spread of measles, malaria, and cholera.

Five days ago, the deputy governor of West Darfur declared the death toll to have reached at least 850. “The magnitude of suffering is inconceivable in El Geneina. Our communications have been cut off, we have no food, no drink, and no shelter,” he told Radio Dabanga. 

Worst place on earth

The West Darfur Doctors Union said yesterday that “what happened in Rwanda [in 1994] is now being repeated in El Geneina”.

In a statement on social media, the medics said that “El Geneina has been subjected to successive attacks since April 20, killing and wounding hundreds of people and displacing thousands from their homes and camp shelters”.

They lamented the collapse of the health system and civil services and the departure of humanitarian organisations.

‘A large number of the wounded needed urgent surgical intervention, which led to the conversion of a number of homes into operating rooms’ – West Darfur activists

Among the “many gross violations of human rights, including enforced disappearances” they mentioned “the killing of the elderly and denying people access to water sources”.

The current siege is preventing people from leaving the city. “The provision of any humanitarian aid offered from neighbouring localities is blocked as well.”

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) yesterday called El Geneina “one of the worst places on earth.” 

One month ago, the Sudanese Women of Change organisation estimated that as many as 2,000 could have been killed in the violence in El Geneina up until that time. Communication blackouts and threats against journalists make it impossible to verify numbers.

On social media, the organisation wrote that a “Rwanda genocide scenario is happening now” in El Geneina “and the world is just watching”.


The West Darfur Doctors Union also reported that an unknown number of medical staff, activists, and journalists were killed in El Geneina. Many others were injured. 

According to the Darfur Bar Association (DBA), local community leaders, lawyers, and medical doctors were targeted in particular during the attacks.

In a statement on Sunday, the DBA mentioned human rights defenders Khidir Abdelmajeed, El Fateh Shaaeldin, Mohamed Dahab, and Abubakar Tajeldin who were killed in El Geneina last week.

The Darfur lawyers called on Sudanese civil society organisations “to address the United Nations and the UN Security Council and ask them to intervene, take the necessary measures to lift the siege imposed on El Geneina, and immediately stop the arbitrary killing and forced displacement”.  

Toby Howard, the coordinator of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Darfur has called on the international community to “do more to help the people of Darfur achieve a better future.

“Despite the immense suffering they endured for two decades, they still enjoy tremendous resilience,” UNHCR tweeted.

“The consequences have been devastating on the communities, with over 100,000 people forced to flee across the border to Chad,” Howard said.

Dangers on the road

People who fled El Geneina to neighbouring Chad told Radio Dabanga that they had to take a lot of detours and stay in hiding for days because the attackers are in control of the main roads leading to the border via Foro Baranga.

The rainfall that led to the nearby valleys’ flooding also hindered their escape.

The refugees told Radio Dabanga that the food they had taken with them was running out. Mosquitoes are spreading as the rains continue, and sheets to cover themselves are unavailable, “let alone mosquito nets”.

They pointed to the difficulty of aid organisations to reach them in the newly established reception centres due to the rainfall and rough roads and rainfall.

The authorities in eastern Chad have opened a temporary camp in Abdi, about five kilometres from the West Darfur town of Beida, to offer shelter to the new refugees.

The camp is now home to more than 25,000 new refugees living in dire humanitarian conditions. The people are awaiting deportation to a new camp set up in the vicinity of Abdi, on the road between Abéché and Goz Beïda.